Pewter Report's Dory LeBlanc examines five keys for a Buccaneers victory each week prior to the game. Following Tampa Bay's convincing 38-10 victory over Kansas City on Sunday, LeBlanc reviews her keys to victory and offers up her grades on each one.
Key 1. Offense Must Cash In On Turnovers
Key 1. Offense Must Cash In On Turnovers
Rookie safety Mark Barron was the first Buc to capitalize on the Chiefs’ propensity for making mistakes. On the second drive (which coincidentally was a result of a Josh Freeman pick), Kansas City QB Brady Quinn threw a pass to TE Steve Maneri, which was tipped then grabbed by Barron. The offense couldn’t convert a third-and-six and the Bucs were forced to punt.
The Bucs didn’t force any fumbles against the Chiefs, and on the contrary – had two of their own. But Ronde Barber was able to grab another interception against Quinn, but didn’t need the offense to capitalize - he took the ball 78 yards downfield for the TD on his own.
Grade F: The only time the offense had an opportunity to capitalize on a turnover they went three-and-out.
Key 2. Stop Charles In Charge
The Chiefs’ offensive playbook in the first half mostly consisted of handing the ball off to Jamaal Charles, which was completely ineffective for a Kansas City offense that only amassed 260 yards of total offense the entire game. Charles, the NFL’s leading rusher, finished the day with 40 yards on 12 attempts and caught two of three passes thrown at him for seven yards. However, 22 of those yards came from a breakout run in the third quarter. Those big plays have come back and bitten the Bucs in all three losses, but Kansas City is so reliant on Charles, shutting him down just meant they would be forced out of their comfort zone.
The Bucs shut down of Charles also forced Kansas City to utilize other options; out of 68 offensive plays, Charles was involved in 15 of them.
Grade A: When you can hold a player averaging 110 yards per game to less than half – 47 yards – you’ve done something right.
Key 3. Pave The Way
Tampa Bay signed tight end Nate Byham the week of the bye due to his blocking abilities and even had tight end Danny Noble inactive for the game. Like most tight ends on the Bucs this season, Byham played sparingly and when he did he went unnoticed.
Luke Stocker, billed as a complete tight end a year ago before the draft, did a nice job with run blocking against the Chiefs, something he struggled with in the first four games.
As a team, the Bucs rushed for 145 yards with rookie Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount combining for 134 yards on 20 attempts. Martin rushed for 76 yards on 13 attempts for an average of 5.8 yards per carry, while Blount had seven carries for 58 yards – an average of 8.3 yards per attempt. The team overall averaged soared to 6.0 – up from the 4.4 per carry two weeks ago against Washington which was their best average to date on the season.
One of the most promising aspects of the Bucs’ ground attack was that both Martin and Blount had breakouts; Martin’s was 23 yards while Blount’s longest was 35 yards, both came in the final quarter.
It’s not always fair to blame the blocking when things don’t go the way you want, just as it’s not always fair to give the back all the credit when things do.
Jamon Meredith at right guard was a huge improvement over Ted Larsen from first glance and hopefully that continues. The offensive line continued to play well in pass protection – Freeman was only sacked once, bringing his season total to eight sacks in five games. Freeman is among the least sacked QBs in the NFL, due largely in part to the O-Line. But with Davin Joseph out for the season, the run blocking had been exposed as a weak offensive link. Meredith may be the key to right the rushing ship.
Grade B+: It’s a start. The average per carry went up and both Martin and Blount had fourth quarter breakout runs.
Key 4: Get It Together On Third Downs
Entering the game the Bucs had converted an abysmal 26 percent of third downs. Against Kansas City that number jumped to 44 percent.
Tampa Bay went 2-for-4 on third downs in the first half and came back in the second half converting 2-of-5 third downs.
Unfortunately one of the things that didn’t improve from two weeks ago was the Buccaneers ability to avoid third-and-long situations. The shortest third down situation was a three yarder that was converted in the second quarter.
Tampa Bay was also successful turning second downs into firsts thanks to big plays by the receiving corps. Comparatively speaking, Kansas City was forced into 17 third down situations and could only convert six for 35 percent.
Grade B: The Bucs are still converting less than half of their third downs, but 44 percent is a vast improvement over the first four games when Tampa Bay averaged 29 percent.
Key 5: Force Quinn To Write Checks He Can’t Cash
Quinn hadn’t started a game since 2009 before Sunday and although he started out decently, his play declined as the game went on.
The Bucs defense forced Quinn to throw early in the first quarter – and forced an interception by Barron. But after the pick, Quinn settled down and at times was throwing lasers. In the first quarter Quinn was 5-for-8 for 29 yards and followed it up throwing 6-for-9 for 54 yards - not great, but not awful either. The day all went downhill for Quinn after halftime.
Quinn opened the Chiefs’ second half with a pick-six by Ronde Barber on Kansas City’s first possession and it seemed like the Bucs’ defense was too much for either the Chiefs’ passing or ground games.
Quinn ended the afternoon completing 22-of-38 passing (57 percent) for 180 yards and two interceptions for a QB rating of 48.1.
Grade A: Quinn’s longest pass was 19 yards, he threw two interceptions and he was held to zero touchdowns.